Cocoons reveal the aesthetic of change

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THE humble silkworm cocoon is the perfect illustration of what the Buddha said to the effect that “nothing is permanent; everything is subject to change” as it transforms into butterfly or luminous silk, as seen in a new exhibition at the Nishi Gallery.

Alison Wright  with her work
Alison Wright with her work

The artist who makes it so is Alison Wright, a well-known personality in Canberra’s world of marketing and communication, but also, as few people around the traps know, at heart an artistic creator.

Now in “Spun,” her solo exhibition of works on heavy Italian paper, she examines the theme of constant change through a minimalist yet seemingly obsessive preoccupation with perfectly-installed cocoons, framed by local artist Michael Cammack to become white on white or black/white installations conjuring up a Chinese or Japanese aesthetic. She designed the show, especially for the Nishi space, choosing the “less is more” principle rather than creating clutter.

That aesthetic is no accident, Wright, trained in sculpture at the Western Australian School of Fine Art, spent many years in Shanghai running several businesses and also exhibiting similar work during 2013 in that city.

Cocoon embedded on heavy Italian paper
Black cocoons embedded on heavy Italian paper

Discovering in China, from which she has sourced most of the cocoons, that discarded cocoons have been used for various purposes including as cosmetic products or facial exfoliation, has taken the cocoons and re-purposed them “organically,” saying, “I don’t see before I make”.

Strongly influenced by the artistic world of Kyoto, Japan, where coincidentally I once saw a huge installation of cocoons, she describes as “like pinning butterflies – something beautiful but vacated…”

“A lot of people talk about it being a very calming show… it’s a very meditative process in placing the cocoons, especially the white on white, which reference the Zen aesthetic,” she says.

It wasn’t particularly difficult importing the cocoons to Australia, as during the silk process, they are always subjected to boiling water. Most have been sourced out of China, except for the delicate golden cocoons which come from Thailand. Some of the black ones are dyed and some naturally black. Now back in Canberra where she had worked before art one of our national institutions, Wright says she is finding both the creative atmosphere of the ACT and the process of creating a second solo show, “liberating.”

There is a special quality about Canberra that allows you to settle,” she says.

“Spun” works on paper by Alison Wright, at the Nishi Gallery, Kendall Lane, NewActon, Weekdays 11am – 3pm and Weekends 11am – 4pm until November 1. All the works are for sale.


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